Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jana K. Schulman

Second Advisor

Dr. Rand H. Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Molly Lynde-Recchia

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


In western civilization no story has been retold more times than the Trojan War. Homer's works were known only by repute in western Europe after the fall of Rome. As such, the Middle Ages saw the blossoming of a new Troy tradition based on Dares Phrygius's De Excidio Troiae Historia (The History of the Destruction of Troy). Most countries of medieval Europe used this laconic work to retell the Troy story in each country's particular idiom.

The settlers of Iceland developed a sophisticated literary culture in the thirteenth century. No other people wrote narrative prose works on such a variety of subjects as the Old Icelandic sagas. The Icelanders used the saga form to retell their version of the Troy story: Trojumanna saga (The Saga of the Troy-men). They expanded on Dares's spartan account, freely inserting pieces of classical works where possible. Ovid's Heroides, a collection of letters from heroines to their lovers, inspired an author of one version of the saga to include four letters in the saga: one from Medea to Jason, one from Deianira to Hercules, and a pair sent between Paris and Helen. Each letter differs from its Ovidian exemplar in subtle but dramatic ways. The author frees Medea from her famous filicide, Deianira does not kill Hercules, but still kills herself, and Helen wholeheartedly resists Paris's advances. The author deliberately reinvents his female characters and so reveals the distinctive qualities that are essential to saga heroines.